There’s no doubt really that Ags Connolly is the premier exponent of dyed in the wool traditional country music here in the UK. Since his 2014 debut album, How About Now, he’s carried the flag up and down the country becoming a firm live favourite while he has a growing following in Europe and also across the pond with his latest fan, none other than Tom Russell, singing his praises. Connolly’s allied to the Ameripolitan movement, helmed by Dale Watson, which champions traditional country as opposed to the pop acts who were taking over Music Row a few years back. There’s been some hope recently that the tide is turning as traditional acts such as Sturgill Simpson (initially), Tyler Childers, Joshua Hedley and, most recently, Jason James are becoming more prominent and, if that’s the case, then Connolly is perfectly placed to ride this wave.
Wrong Again won’t surprise anyone familiar to Connolly’s music. There’s the usual bucketful of tears and beers sad songs, all excellently delivered. Then And Now is essentially just Connolly and his guitar and it’s no exaggeration to say that this sounds like a long lost George Jones number as Connolly’s voice tugs at the heartstrings. In a similar manner, although with fiddle and pedal steel woven into a full band sound, The Meaning Of The Word is honky tonk perfection as is Wrong Again (You Lose A Life). Meanwhile, there’s a hint of the outlaw country of Waylon Jennings in the driving What Were You Going To Do About It with plenty of twang guitar along with swell pedal steel from Joe Harvey- Whyte (who plays a blinder throughout the album).
The Maverick’s accordionist, Michael Guerra, appeared on Connolly’s last album and he reappears here as Connolly delves into Tex-Mex on several songs. The opening number, I’ll Say When, sways with an intoxicating, south of the border, blend of exotic rhythm, liquid guitar and accordion as Connolly finds himself in yet another bar, surviving day to day in this foreign clime. On Say It Out Loud, Connolly magically transports miles of driving in his dearly departed Honda Civic from the M1 to Interstate 10 as he recalls passengers including a fellow troubadour down on his luck and a femme fatale of sorts. Finally, there’s the magnificent Lonely Nights in Austin , a song bathed in pathos with Guerra squeezing all the emotion he can out of his accordion.
Connolly throws in a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain which fits into the album’s general sense of loss and sorrow. It’s a grand version with some excellent fiddle playing but its familiarity kind of makes it stick out like a sore thumb here especially as it’s much more folky than the surrounding numbers. However, he wraps the album up with what is possibly the most upbeat number he has recorded so far as Sad Songs Forever rides along with a powerful western swing element to it with jazz guitar licks, lyrical pedal steel and sawing fiddle all adding up to a grand finale.